Saturday, May 25, 2019

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Pelosi's Consummate Skill at Goading Trump

Donald Trump's relationship with women is not pretty.  The man is a sexist pig even when not boasting about being a sexual predator.  He's the embodiment of the type of man that decent parents would never want their daughters - or sons for that matter - ever involved with.  His narcissism and mistreatment of women is stunning. Yet there is one woman who seemingly can not only stand up to him but can leave him totally unsettled and somehow emasculated - something that tears his fragile ego apart.  That woman?  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who seems to be able to play on Trump's insecurities and fragile ego.  Perhaps her skill is enhanced by the fact that Trump likes to surround himself with women willing to grovel to his ego and who justify their relationship with a serial adulterer by closing their eyes and counting the money (let's get real, it cannot be because Trump is physically attractive - the thought of him naked is beyond revolting). Whatever the basis, as a column in the Washington Post notes, Pelosi gets under Trump's skin like few others and can get him to rashly act against even his own long term interest. With luck, her skill at the game will continue to Trump's disadvantage and political damage.   Here are column highlights:
There is something about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that allows her to unnerve President Trump as seemingly no one else can.
“I pray for the president of the United States,” she said on Thursday. “I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country. Maybe he wants to take a leave of absence.”
The proof that she had hit the giant bull’s eye of Trump’s insecurities was his response: “I am an extremely stable genius.”
Exchanging insults with Trump is not an endeavor that is normally productive, as many others who tried it have found. But Pelosi is a dangerous foil for a president who operates on impulse and outburst. While Trump succeeds in making everyone else around him dizzy, Pelosi’s unique talent is an ability to keep her focus on the endgame.
Her current goal is to assure that the president vacates the Oval Office, as swiftly and as surely as possible.  That means Pelosi must do two things at once: Keep Trump off balance, and restrain those within her Democratic caucus who are urging a precipitous drive toward impeachment.
Pelosi knows that unless and until there is overwhelming, bipartisan support for such an effort, it will end with Trump’s acquittal in the Senate. And that would only help him win another four years in office. “He wants to be impeached so he can be exonerated by the Senate,” she told top Democrats in a private meeting. “His actions are villainous to the Constitution of the United States.”
The speaker argues for another course: Continuing congressional oversight and relying on the courts to provide air cover as six different House committees seek documents and testimony from a stonewalling administration. While not as gratifying to those who are eager to begin impeachment proceedings, and who argue that anything less is a dereliction of Congress’s duty to hold Trump accountable, it is the more likely path to defeating him in 2020.
The Democratic caucus would be wise to trust her instincts and experience. Pelosi is patient, disciplined and resilient because she has had to be. No woman in U.S. history has ever risen to a more powerful office in government than the one in which Pelosi now sits for a second time.
All of this has not come without a price. Pelosi’s adversaries have caricatured and demonized her, and even some of her allies have dismissed her.
 Pelosi reclaimed the speaker’s gavel by doing what it took to win in congressional districts where she — and her liberal party — are not particularly popular. Those are the seats she knows she must protect in 2020.
So far, her strategy of keeping one foot on the congressional oversight accelerator while tapping the brakes on impeachment is winning. The prospect of unending scrutiny is getting to Trump. . . . [Trump] bristled at Pelosi’s characterization of that aborted infrastructure meeting as a “temper tantrum,” and pressed five different White House aides to attest he had been “calm” in his three-minute session with the lawmakers.
By Thursday night, Trump and his allies were reduced to the shameless gambit of circulating doctored and heavily edited videos suggesting it was the speaker’s mental stability that should be questioned. . . . Pelosi is exactly who she has always been. What’s changed is that Trump is beginning to understand what that means.
Trump's real problem with Pelosi?  He cannot handle strong women who see through his lies and bullshit and see him for the mentally disturbed and needy narcissist that he is in fact.

Friday, May 24, 2019

More Friday Male Beauty

Brazil's Supreme Court Rules Homophobia Is a Crime

Brazil Supreme Court.
As Brazil's horrid right wing president, Jair Bolsonaro, takes steps to wage war on LGBT Brazilians much as Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenf├╝hrer, has waged war on LGBT Americans, the Brazil's Supreme Court has voted that homophbia and anti-LGBT discrimination is a crime.  Both Trump and Bolsonaro are motivated against LGBT citizens for the same reason: they depended on the support of far right Christians for their election to office and they need the same ignorance and hate embracing "Christians" to maintain whatever popular support they continue to enjoy. That said, Bolsonaro is much more cut out of the same cloth as Mike Pence - a man some think is a deeply closeted and self-loathing gay. How the Court's ruling will impact Bolsonaro's wave of attacks at LGBT rights remains to be seen, but hopefully LGBT rights will prevail over Bolsonaro's campaign of anti-LGBT hatred.  Aljazeera looks at the Court's ruling.  Here are excerpts:

A majority in Brazil's Supreme Court has voted to make homophobia and transphobia a crime, like racism, a decision coming amid fears the country's far-right president will roll back LGBT social gains.
Six of the Supreme Federal Tribunal's 11 judges have voted in favour of the measure. The five other judges will vote in a court session on June 5, but the result will not be modified. The measure will take effect after all the justices have voted.
Racism was declared a crime in Brazil in 1989 with prison sentences of up to five years. The court's judges ruled that homophobia should be framed within the racism law until the country's Congress approves legislation specifically dealing with LGBT discrimination.
Brazil's Senate is dealing with a bill to criminalise discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender with sentences of up to five years.
"Racism is a crime against flesh and blood, whether it is a member of the LGBT community, a Jew or an Afro-descendant," justice Luiz Fux said Thursday. The court's judges said the ruling was to address an omission that had left the LGBT community legally unprotected.
While same-sex marriage is legal in Brazil, it is still a dangerous country for members of the LGBT community and has a large evangelical movement often critical of gay rights. According to the rights group the Grupo Gay da Bahia, 420 LGBT people were killed across Brazil in 2018, while at least 141 have been killed so far this year.
 President Jair Bolsonaro, a former army captain who assumed office on January 1, has a history of offensive comments about gay people, black individuals, women and other minorities, openly acknowledging he is a homophobe. He has said he would rather have a dead son than a gay son.
The ruling "comes at a very good moment, when we have a head of state who is LGBT-phobic," said Bruna Benevides, president of the Niteroi Diversity group. "The Supreme Court assumed the responsibility to protect us."

Would that the U.S. Supreme Court would hand down such a ruling.  The situation in Brazil is a reminder that regardless of the country, right wing Christians are an evil and a threat to the rights of both minorities and the secular majority.

More Friday Male Beauty

The Trump/GOP Bludgeoning or Rural America

Harvesting a crop of soybeans at a farm in 
Hickory, N.C., in 2018. Charles Mostoller/Reuters.
For decades the GOP - and more recently, Donald Trump - has used religion and racial hatred and a smoldering feeling of inferiority/resentment to induce rural voters to vote for GOP candidates and against their own long term economic and financial interest.  I have used a cartoon on past blog posts that shows a red state voter stating that "they hate the same people I do" as a basis for voting Republican.  Sadly, there is much truth in the cartoon's message.  Now with the Trump tariffs, many rural voters find themselves and their communities reeling economically.  Trump wants to give farmers a bailout but lies about the revenues to be used to fund the bailout and omits the fact that the tariff revenues will be paid by AMERICANS and not China.  As is always the case, Trump and the GOP hope voters are too stupid to see that they are being conned and in some measure, it is GOP policies that are accelerating economic stress in rural areas.  Enterprising Democrats need to seriously come up with proposals to address the growing economic malaise in rural America and work to educate rural voters to the reality that the GOP and its policies is harming them and that these need to stop taking the GOP race-baiting and appeals to far right Christian extremism.  A column in the New York Times looks at the ongoing decline of rural America and how a new set of solutions is needed.  Here are excerpts: 
[Donald] President Trump’s feckless trade war is bludgeoning the bottom line of the Republican Party’s reliable rural base. But the party’s disregard for the economic interests of its own constituents goes well beyond barriers to Chinese markets.
Small towns and rural areas, along with some Rust Belt metros, are falling ever further behind booming urban dynamos — leaving many heavily Republican regions in a deepening morass of economic deterioration, joblessness, substance abuse and declining life expectancy. The lower-density places most Republicans call home produce barely half as much wealth as our biggest cities — and it’s showing.
Yet the travails of America’s struggling red regions, and practical ideas about might be done to alleviate them, are barely mentioned in right-leaning policy circles. For example, “The Once and Future Worker,” a widely discussed book by Oren Cass, a former economic policy adviser to Mitt Romney now at the Manhattan Institute, focuses on initiatives to expand employment and wages for American workers but largely neglects the changing geography of economic output and opportunity behind the woes of heartland workers.
Worse, the Republican Party under Mr. Trump has blundered into a positively anti-rural economic agenda, leaving the soybean fields littered with $20 bills for enterprising Democratic presidential hopefuls to pick up. The president’s nativist immigration agenda deprives farms and small factories of workers local economies can’t otherwise supply, while the administration’s latest budget proposal continues the Republican assault on the health care and social insurance programs rural populations increasingly rely on to survive.
For decades, poorer areas had been converging economically with wealthier ones, but that stalled in the early 1980s as employment began to shift away from widely distributed agriculture and manufacturing jobs toward the service sector and high-skill “knowledge work” in the city-centered information economy. Since then, inequalities in regional productivity and living standards have been widening. The declining capacity of smaller towns and cities to bounce back from job loss — whether because of recession, automation or offshoring — means that the regional economic gap grows wider with every downturn, “disruptive” technological advance or uptick in global economic integration.
As smaller towns lost population and viability as centers of commerce, the families of workers who remained in rural hamlets came to rely on trips to larger nearby towns and cities for their shopping, education and health care.
But then many of the factories supporting these regional hubs downsized, moved overseas or folded under competition from countries with cheaper labor. Assembly-line workers who lost jobs mostly shifted to lower-paid service jobs or dropped out of the work force. Crucially, the college-educated workers who ran these factories — the engineers, managers and lawyers — began to flee with their families to the opportunities in bigger cities, and took their money, civic energy and organizational know-how with them.
Scholars at the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project have devised a county-level “Vitality Index” combining weighted measures of median household income, poverty, life expectancy, housing vacancy and rates of unemployment and prime-age employment from 1980 to 2016. They find that the fifth of the American population living in counties with the highest share of rural population suffer the lowest levels of vitality — by a long shot. Americans in these low-vitality counties are far more likely to live in poverty, suffer health problems, die early and lack a job. These places, it bears emphasizing, are overwhelmingly majority Republican.
So what can be done? Here are five ideas:
·         States with flagging economies and declining populations lack the tax base to finance the programs needed to maintain healthy economies. We should adopt fiscal measures to “equalize,” or share, national wealth, which are standard in other advanced countries. This would help prop-up state budgets and ensure the healthy functioning of our decentralized federal system.
·         Basic scientific research and infrastructure investments pay big, long-term economic dividends, yet they are underfunded. A network of federally chartered regional development banks could support weak local economies by issuing tax-favored bonds to finance infrastructure upgrades and promising Research and Development projects spearheaded by currently struggling state universities.
·         The Small Business Administration could be refitted to expand small firms that generate growth in exports and high-value-added sectors, as the economist Dani Rodrik has suggested, rather than simply supplying cheap credit to mom-and-pop shops that sustain, but don’t expand, local employment.
·         A new federal Office for Struggling Regions could facilitate interstate compacts and agreements to help attract firms to flagging local economies on terms that prevent the race-to-the-bottom tax-incentive bidding wars.
·         Granting states some authority to mint visas to meet their specific labor market needs would help dry up demand for undocumented workers, stave off depopulation, keep businesses in place, and fill in fiscal gaps.
Conservatives who have come to embrace economic nationalism have misdiagnosed the problem, and therefore fail to see why bullying trade partners and indiscriminately cracking down on immigration won’t bring back jobs and increase wages.
But the reality of widening geographic disparities has been slow to penetrate Democratic politics and policymaking. Elizabeth Warren’s plan to protect family farms and check the market power of agribusiness giants takes rural woes seriously, but it’s a band-aid on a hemorrhage.
Politically, if Mr. Trump once again chooses divisive culture-war theatrics over an honest attempt to shore up the places that, for now, still prefer Republicans — probably a good bet — Democrats could flip rural House and Senate seats Republicans have long considered “safe.”
This mere possibility could even become likely if only Democratic primary contenders, now seeking favor in rural states, would finally spot the glittering opportunity that Republican misrule has laid at their feet.
 One can only hope that (i) Democrats will recognize and seize this opening and (ii) rural voters will finally wake up to the reality that being duped by GOP culture war memes is not in their best interests or in the best interests of their children and grandchildren.  Indeed, clinging to the culture wars and far right religion makes rural areas anathema to many progressive and innovative businesses - businesses that rural America desperately needs. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Utah Mormon Republican Comes Out as Gay: He "Could Not Continue to Live a Lie”

Nathan Ivie — Photo: Facebook
Those of us of older generations and/or raised in anti-gay religious traditions often struggle for years trying to "pray away the gay" or even undergoing fraudulent "conversion therapy" in order to meet family or religious denomination expectations.  Having undergone this struggle myself for decades, I can assure straight readers that it is a living hell filled with self-hate and self-loathing and, at least in my own case, constant thoughts of suicide which eventually lead to two serious attempts which landed me in the hospital.  Eventually many of us - unless one is Rick Santorum or Ken Cuccinelli - reach a point where we simply no longer have the strength to continue to live a lie and live our lives as actors on a stage playing an assigned role. To say that it is exhausting and soul killing is an understatement.

This is not to say that those of us who married spouses of the opposite gender did not love that other person as much as a gay can romantically love an  opposite gender spouse.  I/we did love them, yet felt guilt because in our heart we could not be what they deserved. This damage to both the gay spouse and the straight spouse is the direct fruit of right wing Christians' - and Muslims' - rejection of modern medical and mental health knowledge on sexual orientation.  Rather than admit that their cherished religious dogma is wrong, these fundamentalist prefer to ruin countless lives. 

As Metro Weekly is reporting, a Mormon Republican  from the state of Utah finally reached the point I reached 18 years ago where he simply could no longer live the lie.  Here are article excerpts:
A Republican lawmaker in Utah has come out as gay after working with families who lost their LGBTQ children to suicide.  Nathan Ivie, a Utah County Commissioner, posted a four-minute video to his Facebook page saying that he had been fighting his sexuality since age 9.
The forty-year-old also detailed a suicide attempt in his early 20s, and said he wanted to help struggling LGBTQ youth know that life is worth living.
“There’s no easy way to say this, I might as well just jump up and say it — I’m gay,” Ivie, who is also Mormon, said. “That’s my reality and that’s what I need to talk to you about today.” Ivie said he had spent “decades…wrestling with who I really am,” and that accepting his sexuality had “not been easy.”
“I understand the impact my discoveries have had and will have on others, yet I’m still the same person I’ve always been,” he said. “I hope, to you, this part of my life doesn’t become my defining trait.”
Ivie said that, when he first realized his sexuality at age 9, he “believed there was something wrong with me.”  “I fought from the beginning to find some way to change myself,” Ivie said. “That battle resulted in a failed suicide attempt when I was 22 years old.”
After recovering from what he called a “near tragedy,” Ivie said he “tried to live the life that was expected of me.” “The truth is, I never felt comfortable in my own skin,” he continued. “I felt I was living someone else’s life rather than my own.”
Ivie said that while he was “as committed today as I have ever been to my faith, family and freedom,” he realized he “could not continue to live a lie. It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t right for anyone.”
The politician noted that he and his wife had separated, but that she remains his best friend and they have discussed at length how to “move forward as a different kind of family to fulfill the responsibilities we took on together to our two amazing children.”
Ivie said he was aware that some would neither understand nor accept his announcement, but that he would “continue to serve my county as Utah County commissioner with all of my heart. I know there are haters in every area of our lives, but we cannot let that be what defines us as a community.”
Ivie said his decision to come out was inspired by working with families who have lost LGBTQ children to suicide.  “That really makes you reevaluate your life, and what you’re doing as a leader to prevent that kind of stuff,” he said.
He added that he wanted young LGBTQ people to know that “it’s OK to be different, it’s OK to live authentically. You can be gay and a Republican…. You need to trust that people will love you for who you really are.”
Speaking to the Salt Lake Tribune, he noted that “somewhere out there” is a younger version of him, who is contemplating taking their own life, and that he wants them to know that it’s worth continuing to live.  “They need to know that it is,” Ivie said. “They need to know they’re valued, they’re loved.”
Tanner Ainge, who serves alongside Ivie on the Utah County Commission, tweeted his support for Ivie’s announcement.
“My instinct is just to embrace [Nathan],” he tweeted. “Today I stand with him as a friend, valued colleague, and fellow Republican. His story will provide strength and hope to those feeling the lonely despair that almost took his life and has taken too many in our community.”

Utah has one of the highest youth suicide rates in America - in my view probably in no small part due the the Mormon Church's historic homophobia.  In my own case, I think I knew from around age 12 that I was gay, but my Catholic upbringing in then conservative Central New York  and family expectations - not to mention the fact that homosexuality was at the time classified as a mental illness - made accepting my true self impossible.  Suicide seemed a far better solution to my problem. Kudos to Ivie for coming out and striving to stop LGBT youth suicides. 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

The Far Right's Effort to Eliminate the Establishment Clause

In addition to guaranteeing freedom of religion, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states: says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”  It's a provision increasingly ignored by the far right and the political whores in the Republican Party who seemingly have no limits on how far they will go in seeking to force far right Christian dogma on the entire nation and all of its citizens.  Between red state anti-abortion laws and the Trump/Pence regime's new "conscience rule" that exempts right wing Christians from the state and federal non-discrimination laws, America has a de facto established religion.  Worse yet, due to the tax-exempt status granted to churches and the plethora of  "ministries" so loved by Christofascists, all of us are underwriting this de facto established religion.  All of this would shock the Founding Fathers who knew well the evil of an established church.  A column in the New York Times looks at the phenomenon which violates the U.S. Constitution and puts the religious freedom of everyone else at risk.  Here are highlights:
It’s almost exactly a year since Irish voters, by an overwhelming two-thirds majority, threw off the shackles of the Roman Catholic Church and repealed the country’s constitutional provision banning abortion. On Friday, voters are expected to defy the bishops again and repeal the provision that requires at least four years of living apart before a couple can apply for a divorce. (Ireland legalized same-sex marriage by popular vote back in 2015.)
Back in Alabama, the state’s governor, Kay Ivey, issued this official statement when she signed the abortion ban into law: “To the bill’s many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God.”
I lack the social science expertise to explain the opposite trajectories of our two countries: Ireland marching proudly into the future, while the United States is reconfiguring itself into a theocracy that would have appalled our Founding Fathers. (Abortion, by the way, was legal at the nation’s founding, and for much of a century afterward.)
But I do know something about the United States Constitution. If the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause means anything, it has to mean that God’s will cannot be a constitutional justification for a law that erases an individual right.
[I]t’s past time for the rest of us to step back and consider the impact of religion’s current grip on public policy — not only on the right to abortion, but on the availability of insurance coverage for contraception in employer-sponsored health plans and on the right of gay and transgender individuals to obtain medical services without encountering discrimination.
The Establishment Clause says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” But we don’t hear much about it these days. It has shrunk noticeably at the hands of the current Supreme Court, in contrast to the First Amendment’s other religion clause, the Free Exercise clause, much in favor with today’s majority.
The only Supreme Court justice who ever linked abortion and the Establishment Clause was John Paul Stevens, now nine years into retirement and, at age 99, author of a new memoir.
Thirty years ago, in a case called Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, the court considered a Missouri law that placed several restrictions on access to abortion. The law contained a preamble declaring it to be a “finding” of the state legislature that “the life of each human being begins at conception.”
Justice Stevens, alone, disagreed. The preamble was “an unequivocal endorsement of a religious tenet of some but by no means all Christian faiths,” he wrote in his separate opinion. It “serves no identifiable secular purpose,” he continued, adding, “That fact alone compels a conclusion that the statute violates the Establishment Clause.”
Stevens explained: “Bolstering my conclusion that the preamble violates the First Amendment is the fact that the intensely divisive character of much of the national debate over the abortion issue reflects the deeply held religious convictions of many participants in the debate.” He concluded, “the Missouri legislature may not inject its endorsement of a particular religious tradition into this debate.”
The court will face another Establishment Clause test, which it will predictably fail, in a year or so when it confronts the Trump administration’s Religious Exemption Rule. This rule grants employers who have religious objections to birth control an opt-out from the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to cover contraception in the employee health plan. The rule represents a metastasis from the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision in 2014, . . . the Trump rule offers no such workaround. Women with the misfortune to work for anti-contraception employers will become second-class citizens, their statutory right to full health care benefits sacrificed to protect the boss from complicity in the sin of birth control.
In the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, 14 leading scholars of the Constitution’s religion clauses have filed a brief arguing that the rule manifests unconstitutional “religious favoritism,” an “unyielding preference for religious interests over any conceivable secular interest,” while shifting “serious burdens to third parties.”
This month, the administration issued an expanded “conscience rule” to permit health care workers, down to the level of receptionist, to opt out of involvement with procedures to which they have moral or religious objections. Another new rule to be issued shortly would limit protections for transgender patients seeking even ordinary health care by expanding opt-outs for providers who have religious objections to treating them. These new measures, carrying out [Trump's] the president’s pledge to serve the interests of his allies on the religious right, will undoubtedly be the subject of lawsuits.
[B]efore the end of the current term, we will have a better idea of whether there’s anything left of the Establishment Clause when the court decides the pending case on the constitutionality of a 40-foot cross on public land in Maryland. Lurking in the background of this case is the argument that the Establishment Clause permits any religious favoritism short of actual coercion of non-adherents. You don’t like the public display of sectarian symbols? No problem — no one’s making you look at them.
It took Ireland many years and much pain to claim the secular freedom its people now enjoy. It’s taking us just a few years of disingenuous politics to hurl us backward to a place many of us never imagined.
Be very afraid.  The far right, especially the Christofascists represent a clear and present danger to constitutional government.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Trump Mulls Appointment of Zealot Ken Cuccinelli to Home Land Security

Cuccinelli - a full time extremist..
Other than Christofascists and white supremacists - the two are fairly interchangeable - the majority of Virginians remember former Virginia Attorney General and failed gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinnelli as an ultra-far right extremist who (i) bordered on near hysteria in his opposition to LGBT rights and (ii) his animus towards U.S. born children of undocumented immigrants.  On the first issue, my view is that Cuccinelli, like Rick Santorum, is a closeted gay who is deeply psychologically damaged from his Catholic upbringing - both Cuccinelli and Santorum fathered seven children in their quest to "pray away the gay" only to discover it did not turn them straight - who cannot tolerate gays who have accepted the fact that homosexuality is not a mental illness and not a sin.  

On the issue of immigrants, Cuccinelli has long been in bed figuratively speaking with The Family Foundation, Virginia's leading hate groups that traces its antecedents to white supremacists who backed "Massive Resistance" to school desegregation. Cuccinelli is a perfect fit for the Trump/Pence regime's war on both gays and immigrants (and effort to pander to Christian extremists), but should be viewed as a frightening figure by sane and rational Americans.  

A piece in Politico looks at Cuccinelli - often called Kookinelli in Virginia - and his potential elevation to a position where he would be positioned to reinforce abuse of undocumented immigrants.  Here are article excerpts:
Many Trump allies have never forgotten the chaos on the 2016 convention’s first day. So some of them were surprised to learn that [Trump] a president notorious for holding grudges is likely to tap [Ken] Cuccinelli to help oversee the administration’s immigration policy, a core issue of Trump’s presidency.
“Trump doesn’t dwell on stuff like that,” said a Republican close to the White House. “That’s what he has supporters for.” A White House spokesman did not respond to requests for comment about how the president views Cuccinelli’s actions at the convention and his role on the Cruz campaign.
White House officials said Trump was planning to tap Cuccinelli for a senior position at the Department of Homeland Security, though his exact responsibilities and title remain unclear, raising questions about how he’ll fit into the White House’s decision-making process on immigration policy.
Whatever the precise role, tapping Cuccinelli would seem to underscore Trump’s continued impatience with his administration’s progress on implementing hardline immigration policies that led to the recent ouster of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and other senior DHS officials.
Despite his theatrical convention protest before the television cameras, Cuccinelli distanced himself from the “Never Trumpers” at the convention, insisting his call for a vote on the rules was not about bringing down.
But there’s no better way to redeem oneself in Trump’s eyes than through public flattery, and Cuccinelli is a cable news regular who defends [Trump] the president at every turn.
“He’s said positive things about Trump on CNN for two years, so I don’t really think it’s an issue,” former Trump campaign adviser Sam Nunberg said when asked about Cuccinelli’s past.
Cuccinelli’s pending hiring is intended in part to reassure White House and DHS officials concerned that acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan isn't aggressive enough to address an ongoing border migration crisis, according to another person familiar with the situation. . . . What is unclear is what kind of authority Cuccinelli will have," the person said.
Cuccinelli served as Virginia’s attorney general from 2010 to 2014, gaining national attention for suing the Obama administration over the constitutionality of its federal health care overhaul. After losing Virginia’s 2013 gubernatorial race to Democrat Terry McAuliffe, he subsequently became a cable news regular.
As attorney general, Cuccinelli took a series of controversial actions, including advising public colleges that they didn't have to adopt nondiscrimination policies protecting gay people and accusing a climate science of fraud.
As a member of the Virginia legislature previously, Cuccinelli pushed to revoke citizenship rights for children of illegal immigrants who are born in the U.S. and protected employers who fire employees for not speaking English.
The country does not need a racist homophobe like Cuccinelli in any senior position in the federal government much less one where he can push racist policies to harm refugees seeking asylum, some of whom are LGBT.

Bermuda 2019 - Days 3 and 4

I never finished blogging about the remainder of our Bermuda trip due to the hectic day we had on Saturday and then or departure on Sunday which involved a lengthy wait in Philadelphia which ended our plan to be home early in the evening. To say the wedding was over the top would be an understatement, beginning with the ceremony on the beach officiated by a former Prime Minister of the island country, to a cocktail party on the stunning terrace of the Coral Beach and Tennis Club, to a amazing tented dinner and dancing on the club's lush grounds. 
cocktail party venue.
Us in "Bermuda formal"
Dinner venue
The first dance
I also cannot say enough positive things about our stay at the St. Helier guesthouse which can be booked through AirBnB or Bermuda Rentals.  The proprietors, Sallie and Scott are wonderful hosts and provide great breakfasts and hospitality, are a treasure trove of information and very LGBT friendly. The house and grounds are very nice.
Front of the house.

Beautiful pool area.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Virginia and Two Dozen States/Municipalities Suing to Block Trump Licence to Discriminate

Trump and Pence with Christofascist leaders.
As often noted in this blog, evangelical Christians have remained Donald Trump's strongest base of support notwithstanding the fact that Trump is the antithesis to what ought to be Christian behavior and morals.  One way that Trump has retained the loyalty of evangelicals has been through (i) his racist agenda - many evangelical organizations such as The Family Foundation here in Virginia and denominations like the Southern Baptist Convention trace their roots to white supremacy efforts - and (ii) his efforts to exempt them from the restriction  of non-discrimination laws most recently embodied in his regime's "conscience rule" allowing health care providers to use real or feigned religious belief to refuse to treat or care for those their dislike.  Now, Virginia and two dozen states and municipalities have sued to block this insidious and dangerous move to please hate motivated evangelicals and "professional Christians" such as Jerry Falwell, Jr., and James Dobson.  Here are highlights from a piece in the Washington Post:

A group of mostly Democratic states filed lawsuits against the Trump administration on Tuesday, challenging a new federal rule that gives health-care providers, insurers and employers greater latitude to refuse to provide or pay for medical services that they say violate their religious or moral beliefs.
A lawsuit by a coalition of nearly two dozen states and cities, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, alleges that the rule illegally favors the personal views of health-care workers over the needs of patients — “at a dangerous price” of hobbling the ability of state-run health-care facilities to provide effective care.
A separate suit, brought by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, alleges that the rule “impedes access to basic care” and “encourages discrimination against vulnerable patients,” including women and LGBTQ individuals.
The suits, . . .  seek to block the rule, announced by President Trump early this month and published Tuesday in the Federal Register. It allows individuals and entities to refrain from delivering or paying for services such as abortion, sterilization or assisted suicide if they have a religious or moral objection to them. The 440-page rule also grants parents rights to refuse several specific types of care for their children.
The lawsuits are part of a spate of federal litigation challenging various ways the Trump administration has been rewriting health-care policies.
The “conscience protections,” as their advocates call them, are among actions taken by the Department of Health and Human Services that appeal to Christian conservatives, a constituency that is part of Trump’s political base. The rule is due to take effect in late July.
The multistate lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleges that the rule puts at risk billions of dollars in federal funds if the states participating in the case do not comply.
The 80-page complaint says the rule also will harm teaching hospitals and other health-care facilities run by some of the states and cities, undermining their effectiveness and forcing them to hire extra staff in case some workers refuse care that patients need. The rule also risks “undermining longstanding efforts by those institutions to build trust with the patient communities they serve,” the suit says.
The suit further alleges that the rule violates several federal laws, including those governing Medicare and Medicaid, civil rights statutes, and a statute requiring hospitals to provide emergency care.
In addition to New York, the plaintiffs are Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin, plus the cities of Chicago and New York; Cook County, Ill.; and the District.
Trump and evangelicals are a clear and present evil that threaten the rule of law and constitutional government. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Trump/Pence Regime Wages War Against Children of Gays

James Derek Mize, left, and his husband, Jonathan Gregg, are both American citizens. Under a State Department policy, their daughter, who was born abroad, did not qualify for citizenship.
Sickeningly, there seem to be few lengths the Trump?pence regime will not go to in its quest to limit the rights of LGBT Americans in order to win the cult like following of American Christofascists and evangelicals. On top of rolling back Obama era policies protecting transgender Americans and filing briefs arguing in favor of an employer's right to fire LGBT employees, the regime has now taken its attacks to the children of gays born abroad to surrogates.  Singling our gay couples, the Trump/Pence regime is taking the position that such children do not qualify for U.S. citizenship even though both fathers are U.S. Citizens. Anything to please the Christofascists and make life more difficult for married same-sex couple gay Americans.  While evangelicals claim to support "family values," this policy shows the lie of that claim.  The true value that they and their cult leader in the White House support id hate, discrimination and the abuse of others who do not share their toxic beliefs.  A piece in the New York Times looks at this insidious agenda,  Here are article highlights:
James Derek Mize is an American citizen, born and raised in the United States. His husband, who was born in Britain to an American mother, is a United States citizen, too. But the couple’s infant daughter isn’t, according to the State Department.
“It’s shocking,” said Mr. Mize, 38, a former lawyer who lives in Atlanta with his husband, Jonathan Gregg, a management consultant. The couple received a letter denying their daughter’s citizenship last month. “We’re both Americans; we’re married,” Mr. Mize said. “We just found it really hard to believe that we could have a child that wouldn’t be able to be in our country.”
Their case illustrates the latest complication facing some families who use assisted reproductive technology, like surrogacy and in vitro fertilization, to have children.
At issue is a State Department policy, based on immigration law, that requires a child born abroad to have a biological connection to an American parent in order to receive citizenship at birth. That is generally not a problem when couples have babies the traditional way, but can prove tricky when only one spouse is the genetic parent.
The policy has come under intense scrutiny in recent months amid lawsuits arguing that the State Department discriminates against same-sex couples and their children by failing to recognize their marriages. Under the policy, the department classifies certain children born through assisted reproductive technology as “out of wedlock,” which triggers a higher bar for citizenship, even if the parents are legally married.
In one instance, a married Israeli-American gay couple had twin sons in Canada using sperm from each of the fathers. The biological son of the American received citizenship, but his brother, the biological son of the Israeli, did not. In February, a federal judge sided with the couple, calling the State Department’s interpretation of the immigration law “strained.” The department is appealing.
The government is also fighting a similar suit from a lesbian couple in London, who did not use a surrogate. One is American and one is Italian. They took turns conceiving and carrying their two children. Only the child born to the American mother was granted citizenship. Last week, a federal judge allowed the case to proceed, calling the family’s predicament “terrible” and “outrageous.”
“Proof of the biological connection is necessary so that the born-abroad citizenship route is not susceptible to fraud by people claiming they are children of United States citizens when, in fact, they are not,” said John C. Eastman, a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank in California.
The interpretation has led the State Department to regard births from assisted reproductive technology as “out of wedlock,” if the source of the sperm and the egg do not match married parents. Such a designation comes with extra requirements for transmitting citizenship, including showing that a biological parent is an American citizen who has spent at least five years in the United States.
[T]wo men in a marriage don’t have that option. “A same-sex male couple cannot conceive a child where both of them are a parent under this definition,” Professor Titshaw said.
Relatively few families go abroad to have children through assisted reproductive technology, but there can be financial or personal reasons for doing so.
Mr. Mize and Mr. Gregg, who met at a swim team practice in New York in 2014 and married the next year, worked with a close friend, who is British, to serve as their surrogate. Their daughter, Simone, was born at a British hospital last year.
Mr. Gregg, who had lived in Britain for most of his life before moving to the United States to be with Mr. Mize, did not have enough years in America, according to a letter from the United States embassy in London. “It’s a psychological trauma,” Mr. Mize said.
“When we went to the embassy and they said, ‘You’re not a family, you’re not married and, Derek, you’re not her father,” he recalled, “it was just like a flood of every emotion I’ve ever had since I was first called a faggot came rushing into my body.”
In court filings, the State Department said that officers are expected to carefully investigate all assisted reproductive technology cases, “irrespective of the sex or sexual orientation of the legal parents.” And there have been cases where different-sex parents were asked for biological evidence, lawyers in the field said.
But in practice, advocates say the policy has a particular impact on same-sex couples.
“The State Department is effectively saying our marriage doesn’t count,” said Adiel Kiviti, 40, another father who said that his child’s citizenship was recently called into question. “If you aren’t going to afford us the benefits of a married couple, what’s the point of giving us the right to marry?”
Adiel and his husband, Roee Kiviti, were born in Israel and later naturalized, they said. The men, whose interview with The Daily Beast drew renewed attention to the policy last week, have two children, each born with the help of a surrogate in Canada.
“Where are they going to deport our child to?” said Roee, who works as a television journalist. His husband runs a media production business in Washington. “We live in America.”
Mr. Mize, whose daughter is now 11 months old and learning to walk, feels a similar stress. He said he had been traveling back and forth to Britain with Simone, who has a tourist visa. He worries about disrupting her development at such a young age, and fears what could happen if her legal status is not resolved.
“This is where our life is. This is where our jobs are,” he said. “Our daughter can’t be here, but she has no one else to care for her.”

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

Russia's Ongoing Effort to Sow Racial Discord — and Violence — in the U.S.

If one wonders where Donald Trump and many on the far right - e.g., those who sabotaged Virginia Democrats in early February using race - who are fanning racial division in America got their agenda from, look no farther than Vladimir Putin's Russia. NBC News reports on newly reviewed documents connected to some of the Russian operatives indicted by Robert Mueller that indicate fanning racial discord - and even violence - was part of the 2016 Russian game plan to elect Trump and that the agenda , in fact continues and could be a problem in 2020.  In addition to causing division and racial hatred, a goal is to suppress the black vote and thereby help Republicans, namely Trump.  It's something blacks mentioned in a prior post ought to be conscious of as they wring their hands over Pete Buttigieg's "whiteness" (his gayness will likely also be targeted by the ever conniving Russian operatives who likely recognize the ease with which black pastors can be played).  Here are article highlights that ought to make thinking individuals of all races think twice before falling for Russia originated efforts at division and discord:

LONDON — Russians who were linked to interference in the 2016 U.S. election discussed ambitious plans to stoke unrest and even violence inside the U.S. as recently as 2018, according to documents reviewed by NBC News.
The documents — communications between associates of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Kremlin-linked oligarch indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller for previous influence operations against the U.S. — laid out a new plot to manipulate and radicalize African-Americans. The plans show that Prigozhin’s circle has sought to exploit racial tensions well beyond Russia’s social media and misinformation efforts tied to the 2016 election.
The documents were obtained through the Dossier Center, a London-based investigative project funded by Russian opposition figure Mikhail Khodorkovsky. NBC News has not independently verified the materials, but forensic analysis by the Dossier Center appeared to substantiate the communications.
One document said that President Donald Trump’s election had “deepened conflicts in American society” and suggested that, if successful, the influence project would “undermine the country’s territorial integrity and military and economic potential.”
The revelations come as U.S. intelligence agencies have warned of probable Russian meddling in the 2020 election.
The documents contained proposals for several ways to further exacerbate racial discord in the future, including a suggestion to recruit African-Americans and transport them to camps in Africa “for combat prep and training in sabotage.” Those recruits would then be sent back to America to foment violence . . . There is no indication that the plan — which is light on details — was ever put into action, but it offers a fresh example of the mindset around Russian efforts to sow discord in the U.S.
The blueprint, entitled “Development Strategy of a Pan-African State on U.S. Territory,” floated the idea of enlisting poor, formerly incarcerated African-Americans “who have experience in organized crime groups” as well as members of “radical black movements for participation in civil disobedience actions.”
The goal was to “destabilize the internal situation in the U.S.”
Frank Figliuzzi, a former assistant director of counterintelligence at the FBI and an NBC News contributor, who reviewed the documents, said that they offer a warning to the U.S. . . . “The unfortunate reality is that we’re seeing an adversary that will consider virtually anything to get what it wants, and if it means violence or splitting America along racial lines or eroding our trust in institutions, they’ll do it.”
Some of the documents appear to have been sent by Dzheykhun “Jay” Aslanov, an employee of the Internet Research Agency, the St. Petersburg-based troll farm that played a key role in the 2016 Russian meddling campaign. Aslanov was one of 13 Russians indicted by Mueller in February 2018 for his role with the IRA.
The plan was shared with Mikhail Potepkin, a Russian businessman, who then circulated it more widely, according to communications reviewed by NBC News.
Both Aslanov and Potepkin have been linked to Prigozhin, a Russian catering magnate often described as “Putin’s chef.” Prigozhin was also indicted by Mueller for funding the IRA. Widely perceived as a Kremlin operative, he has been connected to a shadowy mercenary outfit known as the Wagner Group, whose guns-for-hire are reported to have been involved in Russian military operations in Syria and Eastern Ukraine, according to U.S. military officials.
The Mueller report exposed how Russian trolls, employed by associates of Prigozhin, deliberately inflamed racial tensions by spreading false and incendiary stories to African-Americans via social media. Among the objectives was to suppress black turnout in the 2016 U.S. election.
“Russia understands how critical the African American vote is to determining the outcome of elections,” said Demings, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee. “And because we have not effectively dealt with racism as a country ourselves, I believe we've made ourselves vulnerable to foreign powers like Russia to continue to try to undermine.”
The documents also discuss how to expand Russia’s clout on the African continent and win business there, from arms sales to mining contracts. They outline propaganda efforts to target Africans and stir up negative opinions about Europe and the U.S.
“Even though these kinds of initiatives from the Russians aren’t new to us, what is new is the rapidity with which they can get this message out on social media and saturate the American consumer with these kinds of thoughts,” said Figliuzzi, the former FBI official. “That puts the Russian initiative on steroids and should scare all of us.”